Remember when Natalie Portman announced she wouldn’t be attending the Most Historic Oscars of All Time (if only we knew then what we know now), on account of being “too pregnant,” despite her Best Actress nomination for Jackie? Many of us (and by many of us I mean me, myself and I) became concerned as to what this might mean for her safety. Might Natalie be suffering from some sort of terrible complication like preeclampsia or a placental or umbilical issue? Was she on bed rest? Had she ballooned beyond recognition that her custom-made dress no longer fit, which would unacceptably necessitate her appearing on the red carpet in a pair of over-the-belly leggings from The Pea in the Pod and one of those horizontally striped stretchy dresses that seem to be the only thing designers think pregnant women should wear?
Well, thankfully, none of these things have turned out to be true! Natalie played us! She didn’t go to the Oscars because she had actually given birth to her second child just four days earlier, and not bothered to tell us until now!
Portman cleverly used the brouhaha surrounding this year’s awards ceremony—with all its usual in-fighting and backlashes and petty rivalries, not to mention what amounts to the biggest (and most hilarious) screw up in Best Picture history—to buy herself a couple of weeks of quiet time after the birth of her new daughter, Amalia Millepied, a name so euphonious and ballerina-like that the ghost of Joseph Cornell is building a shadowbox in her honor right now.
Obviously, we’re thrilled for the family, which includes Natalie’s husband, the ballet dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, and big brother Aleph, born in 2011, the same year Natalie won the Oscar for her performance in Black Swan. But we’re also thrilled and inspired by the masterful way la famille Millepied-Portman managed to achieve every famous person’s stated goal—absolute privacy—while still achieving their implicit one—classy, glowing publicity—by effectively turning the celebrity-industrial complex in on itself: Make a vague albeit not factually untrue statement that will lay speculation to rest, allow the ensuing distraction to give you cover for the next week or two, and then make an announcement when you’re good and ready, and at a time when the aforementioned distraction has died down enough to ensure that you actually get some attention.
Well played as always, Natalie. Mazel tov on your new arrival, and here’s hoping that someday we actually get to see a picture of the baby.
Rachel Shukert is the author of the memoirs Have You No Shame? and Everything Is Going To Be Great,and the novel Starstruck. She is the creator of the Netflix show The Baby-Sitters Club, and a writer on such series as GLOW and Supergirl. Her Twitter feed is @rachelshukert.